As French consul to the Carolinas and Georgia, Michel-Ange-Bernard Mangourit was dispatched in 1792 to capitalize on the fledgling alliance between the young republics as a means to spread the French Revolution into Spanish holdings in the Floridas and Louisiana. 'This bright era of happy revolutions,' as Joseph Clay, Jr., of Georgia deemed it, was ripe with opportunity for establishing transatlantic republican solidarity with a foothold in Charleston. In his analysis of the public and clandestine activities of Mangourit during his short tenure in Charleston, Robert J. Alderson, Jr., presents a case study of the challenge given to U.S. republicanism by its French counterpart.Before arriving in Charleston, Mangourit was already a well-established republican revolutionary. He was an important member of the Freemasons and one of the first journalists of the French Revolution. Sent to organize invasion forces against Spanish colonies, Mangourit tapped into a wide range of support for the French Revolution and its implications for South Carolina. The consul helped form the Republican Society of South Carolina to organize the friends of France, create a transatlantic public sphere, and assist the invasions.The pro-French planters of South Carolina were t merely interested in expansion for ecomic gains; they believed that the cause of liberty was in peril. These fears fueled criticism of the state's social order, and by encouraging these developments, the consul connected interest and ideology. Meanwhile he was also able to recruit disenfranchised South Carolinians, from backcountrymen who challenged lowcountry rule in the state to South Carolina women who sought better treatment for members of their sex. Mangourit was even linked to rumors of a slave revolt on a par with the Haitian Revolution.In the end, Mangourit's preparations came to thing, and he was recalled before the invasion projects could be carried out. French and American republicanism quickly diverged, and the French lost their best opportunity to reclaim their empire in North America. Alderson's study of Mangourit shows that the tension between republicanism and self-interest could be resolved at the local level, but republicanism could t be the only basis for national relations. 'This bright era of happy revolutions' marked only a moment in Atlantic history, but it was an era that could have changed the course of history in the Southern states.
Robert J. Alderson, Jr., is an associate professor of history at Georgia Perimeter College in Covington, where he was awarded the Writer's Fellowship for 2006. His reviews and essays have appeared in such publications as Journal of Military History and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World.